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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

The Lightning Rods: Interviews with Members of the IDF

Article and interview by: Simon S. Leiderman

Stock image does not depict actual interviewees.

This article was written by a 2024 Rohatyn Global Fellow as part of a collaboration with the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs at Middlebury College

Each person in this article speaks exclusively on behalf of themselves. They are in no way a spokesperson for the IDF, Israel, or any other party.

Exploring Their Personal Views

When Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7th, 2023, the focus of the world’s media and personal views alike were thrown into the spotlight. The following interviews were held with three members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who either served or are currently on active duty. These conversations were conducted to explore their personal, moral conversations and the internal conflict they may have faced during their time in service, being soldiers and Israeli citizens at the same time. The first interview was held with Noa, who is currently on active duty, the next two IDF members requested to remain anonymous. They will be referred to as Ted and Sarah.

Noa’s Story

Asked for her drive to serve Israel and the personal motives that she thought about during her time in service, Noa replied: “If I don’t do it, who will do it? Unfortunately, Israel has many haters and the Jewish people as well. We said never again and we meant it. If we don’t fight, we will have nowhere to go.” Her statement reflects a sense of responsibility to protect the State of Israel that a great many Jews share. When asked if she experienced any inner conflicts between serving her country or people and serving the politics and government of Israel, she had a very nuanced response: “When it comes to the army we must be focused, we are surrounded by people who want to kill us and if we are not united as a country it will come back to us like a boomerang, so we put our political opinions aside.”

Finally, Noa commented on the greater context of much of the media focus the world has given the IDF: “The media is against us. Our enemy right now is the terrorist organization Hamas. We want to live in peace with the Palestinians, we have no reason to continue the wars and for that to happen people need to understand that we must free Palestine from Hamas.”

Ted’s Story

In light of the mass protests Israel has faced in recent years, as well as the various controversies surrounding the pre-war cabinet, Ted was asked of his perception of the Israeli government. He stated that “it is not a secret this government is one of the more radical right-wing we have had in a while. I do think there are a few ministers that do their job well. But overall, not my ideal government.”

When further asked if his political views affected his military service in any way, he responded: “For me, not at all. In the army, both in training, in daily work, and in war, there is no discrimination. Doesn’t matter if you are right-wing or left-wing, religious or not, Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim/ Druze, we are brothers and sisters. We wake up to contribute in order to keep our nation safe.” 

In regards to his driving purpose for serving in the IDF, he replied: “to ensure stability within our country and enable us to move forward and improve.”  Inquiring if he experienced any internal conflict between serving the country or people and serving the politics and government of Israel, he stated: “Never. In the IDF you leave your political agendas aside. It really doesn’t matter because in the end we do it because we love our nation. We want to protect it and see it prosper.”

Sarah’s Story

Sarah, a member of the Israeli Air Force, talked about casting her upbringing as a lens to her service: “I have always told people that I’m a lover not a fighter. Growing up in the United States and having “gun safety drills” made me extremely anti-gun and more than that, anti-violence. I do not consider myself a pacifist, but I do believe that peace is the answer. Although of how we will get there, I am not entirely sure, and I do not think that it will be an easy and/or non-violent process. Unfortunately, it seems that words and understanding can only go so far in the conflicts that armies must endure and battle in sometimes, and that war, death, and destruction is the language spoken.”

When asked of her drive to serve Israel to the best of her abilities, she stated: “I always want Israel to be a safe haven for the people that live here. Israel is a Jewish state and I want the Jewish people that have found a home here to be safe and protected, after years of escaping religious persecution and slavery and antisemitism. I think about all those that have died risking their lives to keep the civilians safe. The soldiers that I had personal connections with that fell fighting for their country. I think about my grandfather’s family who immigrated to [modern-day] Israel to escape the Holocaust when he was only three years old. I want to protect the country that he and his family fought so hard to get to – to build their lives in. Israel is a country like no other, and I believe that everyone who visits sees it. Above all, I want Israel to prosper and to thrive with all of her population; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Arabic, Israeli, and whoever else chooses to live in this special country as long as they are peaceful.

When encouraged to explore any personal differences between serving the government and the country Israel, she said: “Because of the separation between the army and the government, and because I was still able to protest despite being a soldier, I felt like I still had a voice as a citizen of the country. Although at times, it was extremely disappointing and upsetting to feel that I was doing my service as a soldier, yet seeing a corrupt government that I do not see as fit to serve for the best interests of democracy of my country.”

The Person Inside the Uniform

In a world where media headlines, cold statistics, and demonization are frequently at the forefront of public debates, it is imperative to recall the human aspect of individuals across conflict zones. Three IDF service members were interviewed to uncover the individuality and personal thoughts of their service. These are their human stories.

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